More than 8,000 Ezidis return to Sinjar in recent weeks: IOM

Destroyed houses after clashes are seen in Sinjar, Iraq February 6, 2019. Picture taken February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

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SULAIMANI — Driven by concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and encouraged by community leaders and NGOs, a record number of Ezidi IDPs have returned to Sinjar since early June, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a press release on Thursday (July 16).

Between June 8 and July 10, 8,581 individuals in 1,657 families returned to the area, more than five-and-a-half times the number who did so during a comparable period last year.

Eighty-three percent who those who returned in recent weeks came from Duhok governorate in the Kurdistan Region, 17 percent from Nineveh, and a small number from Erbil governorate.

One potential explanation is that the returnees were responding to the danger posed to those living in displacement camps, where diseases can spread quickly among people living in close quarters. IOM also suggested that the movement was in part motivated by a desire by people to reunite with family members who had returned earlier for work, but had been kept apart from their relatives back in the Kurdistan Region by coronavirus travel restrictions.

While IOM also cited some returnees as saying that they were coming back because of improved security conditions and the rehabilitation of public services, along with the support of community leaders and NGOs, it cautioned that there is a tremendous amount of rebuilding left to be done.

“Support is needed to restore roads, schools, health centers and hospitals, shelters, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services, and livelihoods. This is particularly true for south Sinjar, which suffered greater levels of damage and is experiencing a slower recovery, due to access and security concerns,” it said in the press release, which was released jointly with Nadia's Initiative, the NGO set up by Ezidi Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad.

In August 2014, Islamic State (ISIS) militants attacked Sinjar and targeted the Ezidi community in an act of genocide, killing and capturing thousands and displacing more than 200,000 others. Approximately 3,000 Ezidis remain missing, including many women and girls who were sold into sexual slavery.

“Now, as much as ever, [Ezidis] need to count on the collective will of both the international community and the national governments in Iraq to restore local governance, improve security, and, ultimately, rebuild their lives with dignity,” the statement added.

(NRT Digital Media)